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In the first Strong Cities Network (SCN) Summit held on May 11-12, a global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners shared their experiences in building community resilience and social cohesion to counter violent extremism in all its forms. According to SCN experts, “cities are on the front line of building resilience to violent extremism and they can develop crucial preventive measures against violent extremism”. They concluded that educational institutions, sports clubs, effective use of social media and national authorities need to work together to create an effective strategy to prevent young people from joining radicalized movements, illegal gangs or others.  They stressed the importance of every city building community resilience to fight radicalization and violent extremism.

 

The concern of all families, communities and governments today is the radicalization of our youth and the spread of violent extremism. Representatives from 170 cities around the world met in Antalya on Turkey’s , Mediterranean coast to discuss best practices to fight violent extremism and prevent the radicalization of youth.

In the first Strong Cities Network (SCN) Summit held on May 11-12, a global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners shared their experiences in building community resilience and social cohesion to counter violent extremism in all its forms. According to SCN experts, “cities are on the front line of building resilience to violent extremism and they can develop crucial preventive measures against violent extremism”. They concluded that educational institutions, sports clubs, effective use of social media and national authorities need to work together to create an effective strategy to prevent young people from joining radicalized movements, illegal gangs or others.  They stressed the importance of every city building community resilience to fight radicalization and violent extremism.

Representatives stressed that “the fight against violent extremism begins in our own neighborhoods and in classrooms and workplaces and houses of worship and homes. Teachers, counselors, imams and parents are on the front lines of identifying the warning signs of extremist influences”. The experts stated that “it is in local communities where policies touch people, where basic services can be delivered, human needs can be met, and where families first begin to look for security, and particularly where boys and girls begin to navigate that path to adulthood, to identity, to meaning, and to respect.”

The Muslim world today is in crisis. A more serious and effective strategy is needed to fight deviant ideas that justify violence and terror. The lack of an effective religious authority has allowed deviant organizations such as Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and other terrorist organizations to grow. Islamic scholars and intellectuals have failed to address the rage and violence that has erupted because of terrorist propaganda.

Our society must show more social cohesion and resilience to eliminate religious strife and the obstacles that stand in the way of building a strong and peaceful environment. Parents and civil society must pay more attention to the needs of young people and provide them with guidelines that protect them from devious cyber-terrorist propaganda.

A new approach of accepting and respecting the differences between all faiths and different ethnic groups is critical. More determined efforts by religious scholars can counter Daesh ideology and terrorist propaganda that threaten the nation’s stability. It is important to maintain tolerance in order to protect our society’s social cohesion.

Saudi political analysts stress the need for qualified and experienced lawmakers who are innovative and can devise constructive policies to reform the educational sector. Social scientists conclude that some extremist teachers have misguided our youth with a militant jihadist ideology. They reject other cultures and people who do not subscribe to their views. The government must scrutinize the performance of educators and the roles of officials in the field.

Daesh and radical jihadists are a threat to all Muslims and are the real enemies of Islam. More and more militants have taken up arms to conquer Arab and Muslim lands. Every city must accept that it is responsible for confronting the enemy within and global instigators who are out to destroy the peace and harmony of Muslim societies around the world.

Nurturing and guiding our youth is the national and religious responsibility of all members of society. Today our youth are either disillusioned by extremists or disappointed by the failure of reformers. Hence, they remain confused and easy targets for radicalization and violent extremism going against the true Islamic values of peace and tolerance. A new approach and more stringent measures are essential to support a universal Muslim attitude that is humane and moderate so that Muslims everywhere can live with the true principles of Islamic and universal ideals of peace, tolerance and justice for all.

Let us support the SCN initiative and join forces with world cities to reiterate their message that “the ethnic and religious differences that help to define us are not as powerful as the things that actually unite us and bring us together.  We are not all the same – that is for sure – but we are absolutely joined together and unified in our commitment and our determination to have a world of decency in which we respect and love peace itself, and where we can raise our children in safety with respect for the rights and dignity of every single human being.”

This strong and united message from global cities should inspire us to use best practices at home to protect our youth from radicalization and violent extremism that remains a threat and a major concern for us all.

Previously published May 21, 2016 in Saudi Gazette.

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— Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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